John Feeney Charitable Trust

About us:


Introduction

History:
Origins of the Trust
John Feeney
The Clent Hills
Gifts to Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery
Chairmen, past & present

Trustees

Annual Report

John Feeney and his contribution to Birmingham

John Feeney was a Birmingham man, born in Sparkbrook in September 1839.

He was the son of John Frederick Feeny, a journalist from Sligo who moved to Birmingham in 1835. John Frederick was the founder of the Birmingham Daily Post. Feeny changed his name to Feeney shortly after his arrival in Birmingham, possibly to mark a change from his Catholic to Protestant allegiance.

John Feeney the Businessman

John first served an apprenticeship with a firm of metalworkers where he developed an early interest in industrial and decorative art.

Then, at the age of 24, he joined the Birmingham Daily Post when his elder brother who had been destined to represent the family interest in the business left to become an artist. In 1872 John came into a half share of the business, his father having died 3 years earlier, and in 1894 he bought out his partner and became sole proprietor.

John’s 40 years with the Birmingham Daily Post saw the consolidation and then expansion of a relatively young newspaper into a highly respected group of publications.

In his early years there the Post campaigned for the improvement of social conditions in Birmingham and supported Joseph Chamberlain in the execution of these aims throughout his reforming years as Mayor. The Post continued to support Joseph Chamberlain through all the vicissitudes of his subsequent national political career.

Other highlights of John’s career at the Post were the founding of the Birmingham Daily Mail in 1870, largely his own responsibility and a particular tribute to his managerial abilities and  the mechanisation of the processes of the newspaper office in the 1890s. A century on, the Post and Mail continue to serve their readers in the city and owe much to the men who laid the foundations of the papers in the second half of the nineteenth century.

John Feeney the Philanthropist

John Feeney was by all accounts a modest man who shunned publicity for his good works. Those good works were considerable.

He gave generously to local hospitals, particularly the General and Women's Hospitals.

He met the whole cost of rebuilding the chancel of Aston Parish Church.

He was one of the original subscribers to the fund set up on the initiative of Joseph Chamberlain to upgrade Mason College into what was to become the University of Birmingham.

Above all, perhaps, he was a significant patron of the arts through his own gifts of paintings to the Birmingham Art Gallery and through working with other Birmingham businessmen to acquire some major works by Reynolds, Turner, members of the Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood and others. John also presented many works of art he acquired on his travels to the Birmingham Museum.

On his death in 1905 John was described by Joseph Chamberlain as “a generous and enlightened supporter” of Birmingham institutions.

The Feeney Will

He made bequests to Birmingham hospitals and to the University of Birmingham to fund the Feeney Chair of Metallurgy.

He left £50,000 to Birmingham Corporation, a sum used to build the Feeney Galleries and to purchase paintings and drawings for the city art gallery.

Nine per cent of the residue of John’s estate was bequeathed to the John Feeney Charitable Trust which has been continuing those good works begun by John in Birmingham for a century since his death.

John Feeney has left a very significant mark on the city of his birth and career.

With thanks and acknowledgements to:
Andrew McCulloch, The Feeneys of the Birmingham Post, University of Birmingham Press 2004, ISBN 1-902459-48-2

John Feeney
John Frederick Feeney

The Feeneys of the Birmingham Post cover
Andrew McCulloch, The Feeneys of the Birmingham Post, University of Birmingham Press 2004, ISBN 1-902459-48-2

John Feeney
John Feeney

Excerpt from John Feeney's will
Excerpt from John Feeney's will

Download John Feeney's Will (PDF 496k)

On his death in 1905 John was described by Joseph Chamberlain as “a generous and enlightened supporter” of Birmingham institutions.


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© John Feeney Trust 2017. Registered Charity number: 214486